2016 Gets Off To A Great Start
2015 was another amazing year at Offbeat. 2016 is lining up to be outstanding as it gets off to a great start with Ross Munro’s single Gravel Path (from his ground breaking album Twisted Traditions -Greentrax Records) reaching no1 in the Celtic Radio Charts. The album was produced here at the Offbeat Studio.
The BBC/Swedish movie Stockholm My Love starring Neneh Cherry will be screened at the Cannes Film Festival before being aired on BBC TV. All the commentary for Neneh’s voice in the film was recorded here in Edinburgh for the film which is directed by Mark Cousins.
In 2014 and 15 Offbeat produced an album for Sir Chris Evans entitled Lest We Forget. The album is based on letters written back from the front line by soldiers who never returned. The songs were put together by Sir Chris who also plays Lead Guitar on thew album. It feature vocals by Brian Rice, Steve Balsamo, Aubrey Parsons, Darren Wharton, Ruth Notman & Seonaid Aitken.
The album has been passed on legendary music producer Youth who has the task of inviting well known artists on to the album to make sure it achieves maximum publicity.
Imaginary Creatures second album Danse Macabre was released in 2015 and this year we start work on the third album working with the projects brainchild and lyricist.
Offbeat are about to embark on a debut album for African singer Anthony Obi. He has a inspired voice and we very much look forward to working with him.
Singer and songwriter Norine Mindeyes is about to release her uplifting and truly majestic debut single United. Offbeat producer Iain McKinna and Norine have been working for a couple of years now on songs which will be reeled over the year. Notably Tell Me & Living On A Bridge.
Who knows what else will come our way over the year. On Wednesday we work with Skyler Jett, completing vocals which were recorded in Switzerland. Skylar famously accompanied Celine Dion on the movie’s title track Titanic. He then replaced Lionel Ritchie as Lead Singer with The Commodores.
Imaginary Creatures album release ‘Danse Macabre’
We started off 2015 with the continuation of the production of Imaginary Creatures rock album entitled Danse Macabre. The album is now finally complete after 18 months and is available for sale and download.
David started off many years ago originally writing fiction and by using his creative writing skills he discovered that he could write lyrics which started seriously from 1995 to 2000 where he had a fertile period writing many lyrics for his own amusement. This culminated several years later and gave him the inspiration to write his first album under the name Imaginary Creatures entitled The Butterfly’s Dream.
The first album was a fantastic learning curve, it fired David up which gave him the ambition and confidence to start writing the follow up Danse Macabre. These albums would never have come to fruit if Offbeat producer Iain McKinna had not been involved, he worked David’s ideas into an end product and contributes his own musical ideas and influences to the music.
David says, “Well, I really enjoy my time working at Offbeat. Iain and Kirsty are great to work with, and we usually manage to have a good laugh as well as getting quality work done. What could be better?”
David adds. “When I came into Offbeat I had no idea how to make an album, so that was very much a learning experience for me. So now with that experience under my belt (and with Iain also having the experience of what it is I am trying to do) we have been able to make this one a bit more cohesive. The first one had some good stuff on it but it was a bit uneven, it seemed like a random collection of tracks. This is more like a proper album!”
David has a unique style of writing about topics which he feels very strongly about that evoke a response from the profound to the trivial,”It tends to be story’s or abstract ideas, as there are plenty of issues in the world so there is no shortage of material”
And not being a musician doesn’t stop him expressing own musical ideas. He spends time listening to all his favourite albums giving him the many ideas to add into his tracks with an array of influences. This album is so exciting as Iain and David have managed to get some amazingly talented players on it. Like Drummer Ted McKenna of SAHB whos spectacular drumming throughout has given the whole album the right energy and weight to really showcase David’s very talented writing skills, with the addition of Iain’s production skills and who happens to also be playing Bass, Guitars & Lead Vocals on this 70s influenced Rock album. Guitarist Keith More and Blue Oyster Cult’s Joe Bouchard both have contributed spectacular guitar parts, and sax players John Burgess & Kenny Tomlinson have added performances to two tracks a piece.
David says “I started seriously writing lyrics in the mid 90s. That’s not counting the stuff I did as a teenager, which thankfully no-one will ever see! I had also written a fair amount of fiction, so I came to it with experience in creative writing when I started. Then from 1995 to about 2000 I had a very fertile period where I wrote tons and tons of lyrics. I just wrote for my own amusement, at that time I had no idea of actually doing anything with them. Then when I decided I wanted to start recording some of this stuff, I had a ready-made back catalogue that was fairly substantial, and it seemed to me that a good proportion of them still stood up with little or no re-working. So about half of the first album and all of the second come from that slush pile.
Not being a musician myself, I don’t have any musical ideas of my own, everything I do comes from stuff I have listened to. When I was a teenager, all these great albums were coming out by people like Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin that are now great classics, but then they were brand new, and it was a very exciting time. So I have loads of influences that come through. On the new album, one track has a sort of cool jazzy vibe, one is a heavy slow blues, there is a jumping little rock’n’roll number, I’ve even attempted a Supertramp-style prog opus led by classical piano and strings”.
I asked David how he managed to get Joe Bouchard on this record, “I just asked him! About three years ago, when I was looking for a way to make something happen, I emailed him and sent him some lyrics. He was quite encouraging about the material and in fact ended up using one of them as the basis of a track entitled “Everybody Goes Insane” on the last Blue Coupe album, ‘Million Miles More’. So I got a writing credit on that album, which was nice. So we kept in touch, and when I was preparing this album there was a rocky track that I wanted a slide guitar lead for. So I asked Joe if he would do it and he said yes. I’ve always been a huge Blue Oyster Cult fan, so having Joe play on one of my songs is amazing to me”.
Producer Iain also enjoys working on David’s albums. “It’s fairly specialised working with a lyricist and interpreting ideas which are in peoples head, which I’m doing more and more of these days”, says Iain.”When things work out it’s a real buzz. David is always very clear on his brief which makes things easier. Of course, I add my own influences to the tracks, like on the excellent song Babylon on which things really came together early on in the project. At that point I felt this album was going to be great”.
Danse Macabre by Imaginary Creatures is available on Itunes – Amazon mp3. Spotify, Birnam Online CDShop
Catalogue No IMAGC002CD
Offbeat news from our Edinburgh Recording Studio.
THE PRODUCERS BLOG
Well since our last Offbeat blog but we have been very busy here at our Edinburgh recording studio. These last two years have been far and away our busiest in our 23 year history with a great combination of original music production and voice commentaries. As usual the range of styles is mind boggling and has made for a very interesting period for the studio for both Kirsty Anderson (the studio manager) and myself. We hope you enjoy the blog and snippets of music we have been granted permission to post too.
GAVIN BLACKIE – LAID BARE (album)
In the past couple of months we’ve picked up the pace with Gavin Blackie’s debut album LaId Bare and I am is now mixing six of the tracks he co-wrote with Gavin for the album.The album was started back in 2013 but was on hold for most of last year as Gavin was busy gigging and writing new material for the project.
Gavin comes up with great lyrics. melodies and ideas for music and I interpret this into music and songs that are really sounding great. Gav’s unique vocal abilities really shine on these songs. Kirsty Anderson also features on vocals and violin.
We first got together after he won Edinburgh’s Got Talent back in 2010 and have been writing together ever since.
KIRSTY LOGAN – THE GRACEKEEPERS (audio book)
We recently completed an audio book for Australian company Bolinda.com with author Kirsty Logan who narrated her amazing award winning novel The Gracekeepers here at our Edinburgh recording studio.
The recording lasts just over nine hours and amazingly we sent it over to the company for final edits without a single mistake in the recording- by either Kirsty Logan, who did an amazing job of the narration, or myself who recorded and compiled all the audio over an intensive session lasting three days.
The book is about a circus boat in a flooded world. North and her bear live on the Circus Excalibur, floating between the scattered archipelagoes that are all that remains of the land. (read this review)
DAVID ELL – WELCOME TO THE BALL (album)
The David Ell album Welcome To The Ball is now completed and mastered. David recorded and produced it in his home studio in Linlithgow using Cubase and I mixed and mastered the album here in Edinburgh on Logic Pro X at Offbeat.
It’s a great album of Alternative Rock songs with all the music played by David apart from a little Bass here and there by myself. The release date for the album has been set for……….. and will be released on Davids own label….., some of the songs will be accompanied by videos which are currently in production.
David and I first worked together this way on a selection of his songs a few years back. This current album will soon be released.
ROSS MUNRO – TWISTED TRADITION (album)
Former Royal Scot’s Dragoon Pipe Major Ross Munro’s album Twisted Tradition is also completed and mastered. It features a selection of fantastic tunes, some of which were written by Ross, and some traditional tunes. As the title suggests it’s pipe music with a twist.
On this album Ross also plays most of the instruments and also showcases his amazing arrangement skills. I played Bass on a few tracks, Drums on one and guitar on another.
We are currently negotiating a licensing deal for the album and hope to be able to announce a label and release date very soon. Iain & Ross worked together on the Spirit Of The Glen trilogy of album from 2007-2010. Ross will be promoting the album with live performances both here in the UK and the US when the album is released.
SIR CHRIS EVANS – LEST WE FORGET (album)
This album is based on poignant and emotional letters written back home from soldiers in World War 1 who never returned. Sir Chris Evans is an accomplished songwriter and guitarist who has put this album of songs together, produced by me and featuring some great musicians and singers.
Including Steve Balsamo (vocals) , Brian Rice (vocals) Seonaid Aitken (vocals & violin) Jon Cohen (Strings) Ted McKenna (Drums) Ruth Notman (vocals), Ross Munro (pipes and whistle), Kirsty Anderson(vocals), Aubrey Parsons (vocals). I play Bass, Acoustic Guitar and Keyboards.
More musicians and singers are still to contribute to the album which is scheduled for completion in early Autumn 2015. What makes this album very challenging is that we require many different vocalists for the album as almost every song requires a different singing style. Sometimes we have to try out several singers for a song before deciding which works best.
IMAGINARY CREATURES – DANSE MACABRE (album)
This is the second album I’ve co-written with lyricist David Scott. It has a 70s rock feel and features performances by Ted McKenna (drums), Keith More (guitar), Rich Anderson on keyboards, Joe Bouchard (guitar) Kirsty Anderson and Alexis Anderson (backing vocals), Luis Albornoz-Parra on Synths, John Burgess (soprano sax and clarinet), Kenny Tomlinson (tenor and baritone sax) and me on Bass, Keys and Guitar. David sings backing vocals on a few tracks too.
The first album The Butterfly’s Dream was an extensive collection of songs which worked well to varying degrees but this project feels much more like a album and we are both very pleased and excited about how it’s turning out. The recording of the album is now complete and mixing is about to begin. David comes up with the musical ideas for each song and I interpret them musically for him, something I’m doing more and more these days for both lyricists and singers.
MARK AG – LIGHTING THE WAY HOME (album)
Brighton based Mark AG wrote most of this album using an iPad and then came into Offbeat where I produced it last year. It has now been mastered but Mark decided to release two singles from the album prior to releasing the whole album.
Mark and I have been working together now for a few years when Mark initially came to our Edinburgh recording studio from Brighton to master songs from his first album entitled 3am Sleepwalkers.
The latest single “A Beautiful Flower…what if?”. is available on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, Youtube, Soundcloud and more. It features Kenny Tomlinson on Sax. Offbeat’s Kirsty Anderson also shows her versatility on this album, providing backing vocals on a couple of tracks and electric violin on one. Mark plays Piano and I contribute, Bass, Drums and Electric Guitar throughout.
JABJAB – (album)
Back in the 70s gigging band Huddersfield based band JabJab recorded many songs and gigs which for reasons of timing didn’t actually ever get released. The recordings were subsequently lost and were just recently found by their Hammond organist Rob Whittington. I took the master tapes into Pierhouse studio in Edinburgh where expert audio engineer Pete Haigh had to actually physically bake the tapes as a precautionary measure to avoid shedding of them having been stored for so long. The baking method makes sure the oxide on the tapes sticks to the plastic backing long enough for the tapes to be played back and transferred.
The recovered recordings were then transferred to digital and mastered by me here at Offbeat. The story of Jabjab is currently being made into a documentary which will tell the whole story of the baked tapes etc so I don’t want to elaborate too much on things just yet. As soon as the film is released we will feature it in a future blog. The band are performing a reunion gig in July in Huddersfield. For more details visit the website
As well as all the above we have recorded several audio commentaries for the Royal London website, Mastered a song called She by Renaud Cmela, and produced a song by songwriter Stewart Morrison entitled Time I Wasn’t Here.
Offbeat Projects & News October 2014 – Kirsty’s blog
BBC Radio 4
We recently had the pleasure of recording a program for BBC Radio 4 with respected journalist Alan Little. Alan was reminiscing on his Sarajevo experiences on a program produced for BBC producer Hilary Dunn by Loftus Media.
David Scott is a 70’s Rock influenced lyricist who came to Offbeat as he was looking for somewhere to record the many songs he had written over the years. The first album The Butterfly’s Dream was a collaboration with Offbeat producer Iain McKinna which took 18 months to record. It featured a mixture of very talented musicians, the aim of it being to showcase his lyrics and songwriting skills.
David is now back at Offbeat recording his next album The Dance Macabre which includes the awesome drummer Ted McKenna (pictured right) giving the album improved dynamics and quality. To record Ted’s drums they went to Heartbeat Studio just outside Edinburgh which is run by the lovely Dave Valentine with talented engineer Ed Logan. Ted’s kit is rather large and we needed a bigger space to get the sound that was required for this album. Ted was the drummer for the Sensational Alex Harvey Band (for all of there 9 albums) and Tear Gas, Michael Schenker Group, Rory Gallagher’s Taste and The Party Boys. He has drummed on four tracks so far and we are planning to go back to Heartbeat at the end of the month to record his drums on the rest of the album. Other guests on the album are synth player Luis Albornoz-Parra, guitarists Keith More and ex Blue Oyster Cult founding member slide guitarists Joe Bouchard.
Offbeat has had a long association with Heartbeat Studio’s as a place to record music projects. Iain and I first worked there in 1984 with singer, producer Chris Harley (aka Chris Rainbow) mixing an album of ours under the name Zed. We also recorded Spirit Of The Glen, a trilogy of albums for Universal Music there as well as many other projects over the years.
Here’s an excerpt of the song I Must Join from The Butterfly’s Dream. It features Luis on Analogue Synths and Iain on Vocals, Guitars Bass and Drums.
You just never know who is going to walk through the door at “Offbeat studios” and to our surprise in walked a very nice Indian man called Dr Avinash Bansode (pictured), he wanted to record a Mindfulness CD. He is based in Edinburgh but runs mindfulness courses all over the country for people who want to learn about being mindful, which is in the form of some very peaceful meditations that can enhance your life and help you deal with you’re everyday hassles and stress’s of life. Most people don’t really have the time for these things but this particular set of CD’s are designed specifically for the “Busy Person” and is a great tool to have for your life. I really enjoyed doing the editing for this project which involved putting together five x 30 minute audio files from the narration he recorded here at the studio.
Quite a few years ago now Iain produced an album for Gospel singer Christine Robbin. It was through Christine that Norine was made aware of Offbeat. Most of the material for Norine is actually written in the studio from melodies that Norine creates and it and evolves over time into some pretty exciting productions. As with a lot of collaborations with singers and lyricists Iain interprets the melodies into musical parts, sometime using references provided.
This is a very pretty specialised approach to music production which Iain has developed working with many vocalists and lyricists over the years. It’s what makes Offbeat unique and keeps us very busy working with artists from all over the World.
Here’s a short clip from her excellent song United
We are very busy here working on the recording and production of an album with a World War 1 theme which we can’t say too much about at this stage. It’s a huge project with lots of collaborators, details to follow in a future blog.
The Butterfly’s Dream – Imaginary Creatures Debut Album release
IMAGINARY CREATURES – THE BUTTERFLY’S DREAM. A slow burning studio project.
Since August 2012 and for most of 2013, lyricist David Scott was in the studio every Wednesday between 2pm and 6pm, working on his debut album The Butterfly’s Dream for his project Imaginary Creatures.
In early January 2014 we put the finishing touches to the tracks and sent it off to be manufactured for it’s current release on David’s label. The album, which is over an hour in length, consists of 14 original classic rock songs. In the studio, David approached each song with a strong vision in his head regarding influences and instrumentation and it was my job to interpret this for him. The album is available from Itunes for £9.99
Normally I take a supporting role with artists in the studio, but in this case David, who is principally a lyricist, doesn’t play any instruments and the only practical way forward was for me to play most of the parts as well as singing lead vocals. Whenever possible we invited guests to play on the album though and their contributions added lots of variety to the sound.
Offbeat Kirsty engineered the album with me and contributed Backing Vocals on several tracks as well as Electric Violin on Haunted.
Phenomenal Lead Guitarist Keith More guests on Hells Heart & Bad For Me (Keith’s credits include: Joe Satriani, Paul McCartney, Tina Turner, The Michael Shenker band).
Annie McCaig sings backing vocals on opening track Before The Night Comes & Ten Years (her recording credits include –Tears For Fears, Simple Minds, Level 42).
Fraser Speirs (credits: Paulo Nutini, Carole Kidd, Tam White) played his amazing Harmonica on two songs, Bad Train & Ten Years.
Rod Clements. (former member of Lindisfarne), plays Electric & Acoustic Slide Guitar on Bad For Me, Bad Train & Everybody Goes Insane which has already been covered by Blue Coupe, in the States. The band was formed by Blue Oyster Cult guitarist, vocalist Joe Bouchard). Joe heard a sneak preview of our version and said “Love the new version of Everybody Goes Insane. It’s way different from the Blue coupe version but it is a great take. Love the acoustic and slide and harmonies“
For those with the patience and the time, working on an album over an extended period can produce amazing results. I first worked this way with multi- instrumentalist and Singer/ Songwriter John McNairn on his excellent album of contemporary arrangements of classic Border ballads – Borderland – back in the late 90’s. John used to visit the studio for an hour and a half every Thursday and 18 months later we found we had a great album on our hands. Recording in short sessions and taking the result home to review can be a very effective way to evolve a production, and to avoid wasting any studio time for the artist.
The Butterfly’s Dream and Borderland can’t really be compared as they are so different musically, but they were both fairly ambitious projects which required many sessions with diverse approaches to the production of each track.
Another advantage of recording over a longer period of time is funding of albums for self funded projects. Paying for the production over time and for shorter sessions is much more manageable and affordable with a big budget result.